Playing Chess while strategizing a website project

Do you need to hire a WordPress freelancer? And the strategic website development process I use.

I’m a freelance WordPress developer for hire and I’ve been making websites in one form or another for over a decade. I’m local to Southern Maine and certfied in several Google digital marketing services including AdWords, Analytics, and Mobile Sites.

When I was first discovering coding, websites were still static. Facebook was brand new. Twitter didn’t exist. The 960 grid system was cutting edge. Table based layouts and single-page websites built with complex iframe setups were absolutely acceptable. A website was still thought to be very similar to a printed document – there was layout and body copy and it was always where you put it. Why’s any of that important now? Because it shows I’ve been at this for a while — I have the knowledge to code backward compatible web pages going all the way to IE6 if you want to get wacky. The good old days were fun, but nowadays I’m all about building clean, mobile first, search engine optimized, responsive, content management-driven websites and I’ve spent a lot of time getting overly familiar with WordPress.

Why do I recommend WordPress?

Why WordPress and not something else? The simple truth is that time is money and I’m most efficient with WordPress. Plus, if I’ve accepted your project I already know WordPress is going to 100% work for you. I’ve worked on projects using a handful of different content management systems including Drupal, Joomla, Concrete5, SquareSpace, BigCommerce, Shopify, Volusion, and Magento, and I can honestly say that most every content management system offers the ability to do anything you want both visually and functionally. The reason to choose one over the other is because your developer (me) can be confident that it’s going to do what you need it to do — that it can be used to develop effectively and efficiently — and that it can be set up in a way that will be easy for you to maintain once it’s up and running. That’s the leg up you’ll get by choosing WordPress. I know my way around, so we can get started faster, finished sooner, and end up with a better end result.

When I build your website with WordPress it’s going to be responsive, dynamic, easy to use, easy to update, easy to maintain, flexible, scalable, extendable, optimized for search discoverability and user experience, object-oriented, and coded with standardized methodologies for extended longevity.

Websites can be about anything

What your website’s about is totally up to you. There’s all kinds of reasons to create a website from landing pages, to a page that acts as a business card or a point of contact, an informational page, an authority website, a micro-site that’s an offshoot of your primary site, an automated news site, a site for a brand, band, or business, for a survey, a mailing list signup, an online shop, a jump page for affiliate links, a place to share photos, a wedding registry, an event flyer, a blog, a recipe sharing site, a site where you share funny memes of cats or any number of other creative reasons you can come up with. I’m here to help make those ideas a reality.

Upfront planning for goals and expectations

Once you’ve got your idea ready to go the planning can begin. I like to analyze your needs a little before getting started and figure out what your goals are, what functionality you’re looking for, what other websites might excite you, what websites don’t excite you, who your competition is, how you could be better, who your primary audience is, what type of assets you’re able to gather, what your online presence looks like today and other profiling type information that best helps to tailor your website to your needs. Every project and every client is different, so there’s no cookie cutter 1-size fits all solution to creating a great website, but assessing your needs and getting organized up front helps everything.

From here, I’ll be able to compose a basic proposal with an estimate and define the scope of your project.

Pinning down architecture and development milestones

After we’ve figured out what you need, I can start piecing your website together. Creating a hierarchy or architecture of your website creates a tangible picture of what pages and functionality need to exist, as well as where they need to exist. This exercise is useful because it not only shows how page-level components relate to each other, but it’s an established list of all the content and functionality that needs to be developed and can be used as a tool for scheduling and estimating project planning in smaller, more digestible chunks.

This step produces your first sitemap and sets a pace for expectations through the project.

A visual inventory with wireframes

The next step’s wireframes. They’re the best way to see how everything is going to come together and get an idea of if the plan is really going to work for you before spending billable hours creating finished designs. Wireframes easily let you visualize what components live on which pages, as well as how they’ll be relating to each other spatially through sizing and position, and some interactive wireframes can even demonstrate real user interactions, so you can get a feel for the user experience, as well as how the skeleton of your site will look. They’re kind of like looking at your website with x-ray vision.

Wireframes are a bare-bones, non-styled representation of how every part of your site fits together.

Layering on branding with design

When you’ve approved the architecture and wireframes the design phase can begin. I’ve worked on enough projects that I can put together a pretty slick user interface on my own, but I work with some great designers too who help me when there’s too much left-brain going on or when you want graphics that have a certain special made custom “just for you” feel to them. Generally, you’ll be presented with designs for your home page, an internal page, and any uniquely different page layouts or pages where there’s prominent functionality. As with everything, designs take time and I’m happy to work within your budget and timeframe.

Details added through design generate a unique look and feel that creates a bond and can instantly establish trust in the eyes of your audience.

My favorite part: development

After approving designs is where my feet really hit the pavement. You’ve kicked me off on your project and helped round out the idea. A sitemap’s been generated from your architecture. The wireframes look good and I know we’re not going to miss anything. You’ve seen the designs, given a stamp of approval, and it’s time to turn pictures into web pages. I’ll get WordPress setup, create user accounts, and start building out your website while keeping you updated through regular updates – communicating what’s being done, what’s been done, what you can expect to have done next, and what’s still left to do. There’s a general procedure or plan for everything I do, but I’m always ready to adapt it to better suit the needs of the project in an effort to stay agile.

Development’s the coding, creation, and organization of what’s under the hood of your site.

WordPress themes come in custom and customized.

I think building a theme from scratch is a great idea. It’s fun for me, but the real benefit for you is that A) it’s always leaner because we’re only putting in what you need and nothing extra that you don’t and B) your level and speed of support is going to be amazing because I’ll know every inch of your website since I built it. Or, since I use standardized coding methodologies to build object-oriented component-based websites you could hire anyone you want and they’ll easily be able to make any maintenance changes with confidence, too.I’m always available for support, but there’s plenty of documentation available, too.

If you’re trying to minimize your expenses, however, you may be interested in choosing a pre-built WordPress theme. It’s easy to update graphics, text, and colors if there’s a theme out there that fits your needs. There are thousands to choose from and since I’m able to customize it for you there’s no need to worry about your site looking too similar to someone else’s site if you choose to purchase a popular theme. Pre-built themes are a great way to get your project up and running faster. Either way -custom or customized, parent theme or child – you’ll end up with something that fits your needs.

Add in your add-ons and extras. Plugins, APIs, and 3rd party integrations

Beyond template development, there’s additional functionality to consider like plugins. Does your site need special plugins? Or to be connected to an API or feed or another 3rd party subscription? I can help you choose and/or install the best additional tools to boost your site’s effectiveness and create better user experiences, so you can get more ROI. Don’t forget newsletter subscription services like Aweber, Constant Contact, and MailChimp all need to be integrated into your website somehow if you plan on using your website to collect visitor information.

WordPress integrates with nearly everything. You’re usually just a plugin or API call away.

Content is still king

Content entry is also a good task to tackle around this time. Content is still king, after all. Often, your site can be set up so you’re able to enter content any time before, during or after the development phase, but it’s best to have your content entered before getting too far along with plugins and it’s essential to do before you can spend time on things like search engine and keyword optimization that will increase your website’s natural search discoverability.

Creating quality content counts. You can get a million users to visit your site, but you better have a reason for them to stay if you want to capitalize on them, right?

Idea + Design + Code + Content = Your Site

That’s pretty much it. Sure, there are a million tiny details along the way, but it’s my job to make the whole process of getting your website simple, right? Once your site is coded and the content exists you’re ready to give everything a final look over to make sure it’s ready to rock and roll in real life and start planning an official launch party. You’ll need a domain and web host of course, but you’ve likely already considered that. Everything else, like content strategies and setting up social networks are great ideas but are generally beyond the scope of setting up a typical website. Although, I’m more than happy to be involved in strategic off-site marketing endeavors, as well if you want to know more about things you could do to attract more visitors through content strategy and social outreach.

Don’t forget about web hosting and domain names

If you don’t already have a domain or hosting solution I can help you. I’m able to offer you shared hosting through my GoDaddy account which comes with the added benefit of me being able to take care of your site for you as an ongoing relationship. Or I’m happy to help you setup hosting with a provider of your choice, however, I recommend GoDaddy because it’s a too big to fail host; meaning, other hosts might have great special offers for new customers, but from my experience when the chips hit the fan it’s better to have an established accountable host who’s support team is there for you 24/7, like Godaddy.

Launch and soft launch

If you can have affordance for the additional timeframe, I actually like to recommend doing what I call a “soft launch” before an official launch. What that means is taking a few days to a few weeks after your website’s been moved to its real host and real domain name to make sure everything’s working as expected. It’s a good time to test everything out yourself, as well as maybe let some internal stakeholders check out the goods. You know, people who agree to try your site out for you without judgment who will alert you if anything seems out of place before your true customer based audience gets there. The soft launch is an extra quality assurance round to triple check what’s been double checked and make sure everything’s perfect for production.

3… 2… 1… LIFTOFF

Voila! The end.

I’ll be there to make sure everything goes smoothly at launch. And, I’ll be just as excited as you are for when your website is officially live and safely in your capable hands. I love to see my work as much as you like owning it. It’s my art. I’ll leave you with the thought that I realize every project is different. One process does not rule them all and even though what I’ve laid out here might work for most websites, the process for yours might not be exactly the same and that’s okay. For example, a landing page might not need full on architecture planning and wireframing. Or your budget might require making a few concessions on how many design revisional rounds you can iterate through. Or maybe we go with free or freemium plugins instead of premium — whatever you’re comfortable with that makes sense. But, I’m happy to attempt to work with budgets, timeframes, and ideas of all sizes. If you’ve got a project cooking in the oven and you’re looking for an independent freelance WordPress developer to hire then I encourage you to give me a shout.